LCLS comes online

September 6, 2010 By Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory
A SLAC researcher works on the newly-opened Linac Coherent Light Source. Image courtesy of SLAC.

The recently opened Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SNAL) provides scientists around the world with a brilliant new tool to understand fundamental properties of atoms and materials at previously unreachable dimensions.

Its birth, however, could not have occurred without the expertise of Argonne scientists.

The LCLS is a very powerful example of an X-ray free-electron laser, which comprises a series of magnetic structures called undulators that provide precise magnetic fields through which an travels. Electrons are forced to oscillate back and forth as they traverse through the undulators, producing large quantities of X-rays. These X-rays then interact with the electrons that generated them, causing the electrons to bunch at particular wavelengths -- this new bunch pattern dramatically boosts the intensity of the produced X-rays.

The precision and stability specifications required of the undulators at LCLS exceed those at Argonne’s own Advanced Photon Source (APS) and other light-source facilities around the world. The pulses of X-ray from LCLS will be shorter than those produced at storage ring sources, resulting in an instantaneous brightness a billion times larger than can be produced by any other X-ray source available now or in the near future.

The LCLS now joins the other DOE light sources: the APS, the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Taken together, they provide the U.S. with a series of state-of-the-art, complementary research tools needed to carry out revolutionary research.

To get to this point, SLAC asked Argonne scientists to help build the undulator system, taking the technology already used at the APS to the next level. "Argonne was tapped to participate in this project because of its expertise with the APS undulators," said J. Murray Gibson, Argonne’s associate laboratory director for photon sciences. "An X-ray laser such as LCLS opens up new scientific frontiers and represents an immense technical achievement for the United States. We could not have done this without the partnership of national laboratories, universities and industry.”

The electron and photon beams within the LCLS undulator must travel on a straight trajectory that can only deviate by a few dozen micrometers. Members of the Argonne Accelerator Systems Division Diagnostics and RF groups, in collaboration with the APS Engineering Support Division Controls and Mechanical Engineering groups and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center scientists, developed a novel technology that provides measurements of the beam trajectory with sub-micron resolution. The information obtained from this monitor is then fed back to the steering magnets controlling the beam as it passes through the undulator.

The undulators themselves were designed and constructed by the Accelerator Systems Division's Magnetic Devices and Accelerator Physics Groups, together with the Mechanical Engineering Group.

“These advanced characteristics will aid scientists in discovering and probing new states of matter, understanding and following chemical reactions and biological processes in real time, imaging chemical and structural properties of materials on the nanoscale, and many new and exciting discoveries we cannot even imagine today,” added Marion White, senior physicist at the APS. “The LCLS will enable revolutionary new science.”

Explore further: Ground Breaking New Science at SLAC

Related Stories

Ground Breaking New Science at SLAC

October 23, 2006

The Department of Energy's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center officially broke ground today for the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world's first X-ray free-electron laser. Scheduled for completion in 2009, the LCLS ...

World's First Hard X-ray Laser Achieves 'First Light'

April 21, 2009

( -- The world's brightest X-ray source sprang to life last week at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) offers researchers the first-ever ...

Have Gun, Will Travel (at Light Speed)

January 25, 2007

The front third of the linac is undergoing an extreme makeover, metamorphosing into a first-of-its-kind hard x-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). But even with the engineering magic embodied ...

LCLS Beam Already in Action

August 6, 2007

The Near and Far Experimental halls are still under construction, but already scientists are putting the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) beam to use. The LCLS electron beam, first generated in April, is now traveling from ...

Pulling the Strings for the LCLS

March 5, 2008

Technician Yung-Yung Sung huddles over her desk twisting carbon wires—each half the diameter of a single strand of human hair—along curved grooves on a ceramic plate. Even Sung's skilled fingers can't prevent wires from ...

Recommended for you

Scientists create diodes made of light

March 16, 2018

Photonics researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have achieved the extra-ordinary by creating a diode consisting of light that can be used, for the first time, in miniaturised photonic circuits, as published ...

Quantum speed limits are not actually quantum

March 15, 2018

Quantum mechanics has fundamental speed limits—upper bounds on the rate at which quantum systems can evolve. However, two groups working independently have published papers showing for the first time that quantum speed ...

Thermally driven spin current in DNA

March 15, 2018

An emerging field that has generated a wide range of interest, spin caloritronics, is an offshoot of spintronics that explores how heat currents transport electron spin. Spin caloritronics researchers are particularly interested ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
not to mention could do heavy actinide burning in a hybrid linac assisted nuclear reactor setup, oops i mentioned it...
not rated yet Sep 07, 2010
is that bad? lessening the nasty long lived radio-isotopes, i mean?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.